The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Black dance culturally rooted through mocking of slavery

By Bryan Bell/reporter

   Every modern dance club owes dues to early black dance.
   Every bass-heavy song and style of dance seen in many of these clubs has deep roots in the artistic nature of that particular historic genre of dance.
   The African American Registry reports that even before the dark days of slavery, dance was an important part of the African culture.
   People would dance in communities to celebrate happy events, such as a marriage or a birth.
   These traditions followed the Africans to the United States.
   During slavery, however, plantation owners barred dancing.
   Owners did not allow various characteristic dance movements, such as picking up of the feet.
   In spite of these restrictions, the slaves created different dances that cohered to their limitations by shuffling their feet, making the dance heavy with torso and waist movements.
   The dancing was later integrated into a more social setting with the birth of the Cakewalk.
   The slaves encouraged each other to do the dance that openly mocked their masters, making movements that acted as ridicule for the aristocratic Southern high society.
   However, the Cakewalks were held in the homes of the plantation owners, letting the owners act as hosts—which freed them from genuine mockery since they were part of their own joke.
   The dances gradually migrated from the plantations to the stage.
   Black and white performers would both star in stage performances, but oftentimes the blacks would be characters whose purposes served to be a target for ridicule.
   The African American Registry states that in spite of the mockery, black performers displayed their culture and pride through those shows.
   Then came the Harlem Renaissance, which the African American Registry declares a major growth period for black dance as it was growing more popular and was starting to be heavily assimilated into white culture and dances.
   Dances such as the Charleston were spreading throughout the United States.
   The growth popularized the movement of the black dance and legitimized black performers.
   In the 1930s and ’40s, many on-stage shows hired black performers to dance, heightening their popularity, and many popular choreographers integrated black style into the dances in their shows.
   Also during this time, the tap dance was being created and popularized.
   Many black dance styles provided core ingredients for the creation of tap.
   Recently, black dance styles have been assimilated into the very definition of dance, with styles such as break dancing and hip-hop both being fully recognized as modern dance styles.
   Many black dance groups have formed in recent years, such as The Urban Bush Women and The Pure Movement Dance Company.
   Some groups founded by blacks tour nationally and internationally, which, according to the African American Registry, has solidified black permanence in American dance.
   Modern dance has much to owe to the early styles of black dancing.
   The assimilation of black dance into popular culture broke down many racial barriers and made popular dancing much more enjoyable, if not more lively.

Donate to The Collegian

Your donation will support the student journalists of Tarrant County College. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Collegian